Poverty Solutions Grant Awards

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Faculty Request for Proposals (PDF) – Reviewed on a rolling basis in 2020.

2020 Community-Academic Research Projects

Coming soon.

2019 Poverty Solutions Faculty Grants

Within the Midwest, Michigan has the highest rate of youth disconnected from the educational and work opportunities necessary for adult well-being. Trauma may well be a crucial player in this disconnect, contributing to later experiences of poverty. New research has shed light on the potential of trauma-informed care (TIC) and Restorative Practices (RP) to improve opportunities not only in mental health, but in youth economic development programs as well.

This study will provide data analysis toward understanding trauma’s impact on high school graduation and youth’s economic well-being and labor market participation. The analysis will be applied to data from Jobs for America’s Graduates in Detroit that tracks intake and graduating statistics like testing scores, employment, post-secondary education and earnings. Researchers will compare the barriers to high school graduation with the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Service Administration’s seventeen areas of trauma in order to determine the impact of trauma on later-life successes. These findings will be used to provide better, trauma-informed pathways for disadvantaged youth across Detroit and the state at large.

Jessica K. Camp, U-M Dearborn Department of Health and Human Services
Tracy S. Hall, U-M Dearborn Office of Metropolitan Impact


Labor-intensive manufacturing is growing rapidly in developing countries. Yet significant wage gaps exist both across geographic and gender boundaries: the urban-rural wage gap is as high as 45% in some areas of India. Industries that specifically carry disproportionate amounts of female employees, such as garment production, could provide a way to enhance successful migration and provide important job skills, and thus begin to narrow gender and wage gaps in labor participation. This project will analyze and address methods to alleviate the barriers to successful rural-to-urban migration for women.

Partnered with one of the world’s largest garment manufacturers in India, researchers will run a randomized controlled trial that aims to facilitate Indian women’s rural-urban migration and assess impacts on the wellbeing of workers and their families. Ten vocational training centers will be established at randomized locations across the Indian states of Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh, covering women living in more than 1,200 villages. The centers will provide vocational skills and a guaranteed employment match in urban Bangalore following training. Extensive panel data will be collected on women from nearly 3,000 households, and impacts on women’s experiences of increased bargaining power, well-being, and annual income will be assessed.

Achyuta Adhvaryu, U-M Ross School of Business
Anant Nyshadham, Boston College Department of Economics
Huayu Xu, U-M Department of Economics


Work can be a vehicle for dehumanization of workers–think human trafficking, or even legitimate opportunities that use workers as commodities. Moreover, in vulnerable populations in particular, the realities of housing, transportation, or childcare may serve as critical barriers to employment. The aim of this project is to study how positive organizations instill work with dignity and empowerment, and nurture thriving individuals with better access to resources that help alleviate poverty.

The project will perform a small-scale evaluation of positive organizations that balance the productivity and well-being of vulnerable employee populations. Employment in such organizations could illuminate one pathway out of poverty. In particular, the findings will be used to direct organizational interventions to promote human trafficking survivor reintegration and rehumanization.

Building on Positive Organizational Scholarship, the analysis will assess positive organizational practices such as a purpose-driven mission, openness to failure, and authenticity, as well as the experienced thriving and relationship quality of vulnerable employees. In exploring the role of positive organizational practices in poverty reduction, this research may illuminate both long- and short-term effects for employees in positive workplaces, from psychological healing to the growth of a sustainable career path.

Mari Kira, U-M Department of Psychology, Center for Positive Organizations
Bridgette Carr, U-M Law School, Center for Positive Organizations
Christina Carmichael, Project Director, The Rehumanizing Workplace Project


Unemployment Insurance (UI) has historically provided stability to families through periods of economic hardship, keeping 3.2 million individuals out of poverty nationally in 2010. Over the past eight years, a variety of reforms have reduced the duration of benefit eligibility by 6 weeks and restricted eligibility for UI, spiking the rate of claims denials to 41% by 2016. These changes have denied benefits to thousands of unemployment insurance claimants. The number of unemployed workers who are applying for UI is also decreasing.

This project will acquire newly available claims and adjudication data for people across Michigan who have claimed benefits during the period from 2012-2018 in order to evaluate the performance of Michigan’s UI system following the legislative changes. Before analysis and accessible publication, the data will be privatized to protect claimants’ identities. Among other things the data will be analyzed for how often and what reasons late appeals adjudication were granted. The results will provide quantitative support for the UI Policy Clinic’s ongoing projects as well as ongoing research into the impact of recent legislative reforms.

Steve Gray, U-M Law School


Access to banking and credit are important tools in overcoming poverty. But studies have shown that bias plays a role in the banking system, which may impact consumers most in need of financial services. This project will gather in-depth, qualitative information about the impact of decision-making among front-line financial service employees. Employees that regularly interact with consumers in financial service institutions make many discretionary decisions, such as charging overdraft fees, which have been shown to be biased. In turn, biased decisions can further marginalize low income consumers and consumers of color and mitigate the benefits of anti-poverty programs. Ensuring that consumers can continue to engage with and trust their financial institutions is paramount in preventing and alleviating poverty.

The researchers will interview dozens of financial service employees in Southeast Michigan, focusing on a daily narrative of experience and decision-making. Afterward, the interviews will be used to design a study to test the impact of discretionary decisions on the consumer. The aim of the study is to provide policymakers, consumer advocates, and financial service professionals with the information they need to revise consumer protections and ensure equal banking access.

Terri Friedline, U-M School of Social Work